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Brighton Buddhist Centre 1
Introduction to Buddhist Meditation course
The following course outline is offered for you to use in whole, as a framework on which to hang your own ideas and examples, or as a source of ideas for your own course. Please feel free to make use of it how you want.
The aims of the course are:
o To teach participants the mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana meditations and help them establish a home practice
o To set these meditations within a Dharmic context, using an exploration of the Three Jewels
The method used is to balance input, practice and participation, with plenty of time for questions and discussion.
Each week follows a similar pattern:
o A recap of the previous weeks teaching o Seeing how everyone has got on with their home practice for the week o Some meditation input and practice o Some Dharma input, based on an exploration of the Three Jewels o Sometimes a further period of meditation o Meditation tips and setting of home practice for the following week
Materials, equipment etc needed for each week is highlighted in yellow in the text.
Timings are very approximate you may need to cut something out if you run out of time or to add in a sit at the end if you have time left.
There is a handout for each week. You can email a copy of this to people if they miss a week.
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Sit connecting with their body, sitting in this space with its sounds, temperature etc, noticing how they are feeling
Introduction to the team, housekeeping phones, toilets, lift, fire alarm 5
In pairs, say a bit about themselves to one another by way of introduction 5
Invite each to introduce themselves to the whole group their name and one thing they would like to get out of the course
Course overview, which can build in what they are looking for from it o Intro to 2 meditation practices o Helping them develop a regular home meditation practice o Placed within the context of Buddhism
Introduction to mindfulness of breathing Its main purposes are:
o to help the mind settle and focus o to enable us to become more aware o to tune in to the transformative power of awareness
It uses the breath as the object of focus but it could be any object the breath however is part of us, connected to how we feel; it changes and so can keep us interested.
Starting to meditate finding how to sit in a way that is both comfortable and alert. Demonstrate the various ways of sitting go round and help them find a posture that works for them
Lead a sit overall awareness of body, encouraging relaxation, tuning into the sensations of breathing and doing our best to stay aware of those, returning to them whenever we notice weve drifted away, ending with awareness of body again.
In pairs, share their experience of the sit and then feed back anything that particularly struck them to the whole group.
o Encourage curiosity about their experience by being curious
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yourself o If there is judgment going on, stress that meditation isnt about
getting something right, doing it well its something from which we continually learn.
Dharma Meditation is embedded within the Buddhist tradition although it is not unique to it, and people were meditating long before the Buddha was born 2500 years ago. However he uncovered a depth, range and subtlety to meditation that was previously unknown. To be fully aware of meditations potential we need not only to practise it but also to understand something about Buddhism itself what its core teachings are and how they can transform our lives. So, how can we characterize Buddhism?
o Its often described as one of the worlds great religions. But probably most western practitioners at least would not consider it to be a religion because it does not have a creator god and does not require faith in any of its teachings.
o Its sometimes called a philosophy because it has a lot to say about ethics and about how we understand ourselves and reality. But unlike philosophy, it also appeals to our heart and direct experience.
o It is perhaps best described as a path, a transformative way of life, inspired by the experience of the Buddha and his teachings.
What kind of a path is this?
o It assumes that we can change that we are not fixed by our background and culture. We have huge potential, and happiness lies in uncovering that potential.
o It shows us that happiness is found within: in a warmer way of relating to ourselves and to others, in becoming more positive, in living a meaningful life.
o It is other-oriented, based on our inter-connectedness and what we can offer to one another.
There are a number of frameworks that we as teachers use to communicate this path, and the one we are going to use on this course is what is known as the Three Jewels. What does the word jewel evoke for them? (precious, valuable, long-lasting, beautiful, multi-facetted, mined from the depths of the earth. . . )
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So what are these Three Jewels? (Have an image of these on the shrine, or use your kesa)
o the Buddha/ golden jewel the example of a human being like us who woke up to the reality of existence, became what we call enlightened;
o the Dharma/ blue jewel his teachings, handed down over the centuries, enriched by the practice and understanding of his followers;
o the Sangha/ red jewel the community of all his followers over the ages including, as we take on his teachings, us.
You might say that a jewel is a static object how can a jewel be a path? The Three jewels become a path as we turn towards them, try to understand them, build what they offer into our own lives. In Buddhist jargon this is called going for refuge to the Three Jewels like a place of refuge, we see the Buddha, his teachings and the community of Buddhists as a safe place in which to build our lives. Over this course we will be looking at each of these Jewels in turn. Give everyone 3 small pieces of paper. Works best if these are yellow red and blue. Guide them through a short reflection in which they allow to come to mind a quality they associate with each of the Three Jewels. Then go round and ask them in turn to read out what they have written. Invite questions
Home practice One of the aims of this course is to help you establish a meditation practice at home. So each week we will suggest what you might try to do over the coming week, and give you a few tips as to how you can help this happen. If you live with others, you might want to talk with them about how you are going to need this time to get the most benefit from the course. This week wed like to suggest you aim to meditate at least three times for 10 minutes. Invite them to get into pairs to consider when and where. Suggest they use the insight timer or meditation timer apps which they can set to ring a bell after a chosen time. End with just a couple of minutes sitting quietly with the experience of body and breath. Give them a week 1 handout
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Welcome. A very short arrival sit. Go round and say names again. Brief recap of last weeks teaching: Buddhism as a path, a transformative way of life that leads us to greater happiness within and greater connectedness with others; the Three Jewels and turning towards these for true value in our lives.
How did they get on with meditating in the week? Divide into pairs/groups of 3 to talk about this, then invite them to share anything theyd like with the whole group. Meet their comments with curiosity, encouragement, gently highlighting any judging that theyre doing.
Mindfulness of breathing meditation One of the aims of this practice that we gave last week was that it was to help the mind settle and focus. We do this is by following the sensations of breathing. This week an extra tool: dividing the meditation into 4 stages, with something slightly different going on in each one. Explain the four stages:
1. Gently counting after each out-breath in groups of 10 emphasis on relaxing quality of out-breath.
2. Gently counting after each in-breath in groups of 10 emphasis on energizing quality of in-breath.
3. Letting go of the counting simply following the flow of in- and out-breaths, relaxing further into the meditation.
4. Focus on one point more subtle energy.
Lead a sit with a few minutes of body awareness and relaxation to begin with
Invite questions and comments. Prompt questions if need be.
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The Buddha Jewel First of the Three Jewels we will look at is the Buddha. In some ways his is a familiar figure. We see statues on sale in shops, his image used in advertising - he clearly speaks to many people who arent Buddhists. But what do we actually know about him?. . . Brief outline:
That he was a historical figure, born into an affluent family in north-east India approx. 2500 years ago
The four sights however it happened, he truly became aware of old age, suffering and death for the first time a turning point. He wanted to learn how to find some kind of reso